Keith Millard Talks To JoeJanuary 21st, 2012
Perhaps the most magnetic and electric member of Raheem Morris’ staff was defensive line coach Keith Millard, who joined theÂ Bucs in 2011. Aside from the two-time All-Pro credentials, Millard is a commanding presence at 6-6 with a raspy, booming, old-school coaching voice. At training camp, Joe remembers talking to Aqib Talib and other defensive players who said they felt Millard’s presence pumping up the entire defense.
Of course, Millard was fired along with the entire Bucs coaching staff nearly three weeks ago.
This week, Joe had an in-depth football discussion with Millard and found a man who has found a new job as D-line coach in the NFL (Joe can’t reveal where yet), but also a man who truly is dejected about losing the opportunity to work with the Bucs’ young defensive linemen, a group Millard thinks is an extraordinary collection of talented, high-character playersÂ that can become a standout unit in the NFL.
Joe talked toÂ Millard about the Bucs’ defensive line and more — some on the record, some off — and below is Part I of the interview. Joe will publish more exerpts next week.
JoeBucsFan.com: Some fans and pundits call Gerald McCoy a bust based on his stats and injuries, which isn’t really fair. How do you evaluate McCoy and what did the team miss when he left?
Keith Millard: I’ll tell you this, from the time I got there and before I got thereÂ I evaluatedÂ him thoroughlyÂ because of all I heard about him, about him not really panning up to his draft status. I looked at the film and saw a lot of things that needed to be corrected. But the bottom line was the athleticsm and the want-to was there. He had the violence to him. He just needed to be cleaned up mentally and some technique things to play the game from that position, the 3-technique. This season, Gerald was making huge progress. He wasn’t where I knew he could be, but his developement was coming. You look at theÂ [first] Atlanta game. He was disruptive making a huge impact,Â and causing a lot of problems for offenses at that part of the season. He was making other guys better. His stats aren’t great, but he looks great on film. He worked hard every single day. He was always in the film room with me. He even worked after practice. He understood his role. He answered the bell. He really did. When he got hurt, that’s when things really fell apart for us. We really had to find different ways to find that penetrating, getting-after-people defense. Against New Orleans the second time was a good example, they were chipping [Adrian] Clayborn and chipping [Michael] Bennett and there was nothing coming inside. We just couldn’t get any pressure the rest of the season. We lost the combination of Gerald and Price inside and the success off that. Like I said, Gerald was making those around him better. You see it on the film.
Joe: Regarding Brian Price, what were the challenges coaching a guy like that when you know he’s a long way from being healthy andÂ you know he can’t do everything he needs to do to be successful?
Millard:Â Brian was a pleasure to coach. This is a guy that has big-time potential. He had to have the surgery and it set him back in many different ways. He couldn’t do any lower extremity exercises for four months [while recovering last year]. He putÂ weight on. But when you look at a guy like Brian at 65 or 70 percent, he was still better than aÂ lot of guys out there [around the league]. … YouÂ tried to get the most out of him and get him on a roll and confident. We couldn’t always do it. He played hurt most of the season from the major hips injury, and other injuries that we’re pretty sure cameÂ because of overcompensating from the hips. …He got better and better. He got his weight down, but it was a struggle week in and week out to keep him healthy and get him through practice. …I thought the trainer did a great job getting him on the field. I knew if we could get him through the best we could this year and get him through the year and some confidence, he’d be ready next year. And he will be. You’ll see the speed, quickness, strength and explosionÂ that made him a high draft pick. He’s probably even more talented than we know, because we saw glimpses of that elite ability without him being healthy.Â It was exciting to coach him and coach Gerald. I felt we had two of the best young tackles in the league.
Joe: So what’s your take on Roy Miller? He came into opening day with a knee injury and battled other ailments during the season.
Millard: Roy Miller?Â Let me tell you something about Roy Miller. He’s a pit bull in there. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve been around. This guy played with a bad back, an ankle, a knee, never complained. If he had to take scout team reps, he took them like a man. Talk about a diamond in the rough. He was a blessing to have around this season.
Joe: That’s some pretty high praise for Miller’s toughness considering how many players you’ve been around through your career.
Millard: It is. I’m not just saying that. He’s also a role model with his work ethic and his attitude. He’s a guy who’s going to improve and be a valuable player in his role. And he’s another guy I wish I had an offseason with. Without that offseason most of the line was playing catch up all year on the things they needed to learn being so young. I just want to say if those guys stayed healthy and we could have stayed together, I really believe it would have been the best young D-line in football with a ton of potential in the future. That was a great young solid group to coach. I loved coming to coach those guys every single day. It was a just a shame.
In Part II and Part III of the Millard interview comingÂ next week, Joe will serve up Millard’s takes on Albert Haynesworth andÂ Michael Bennett, failures in the Bucs’ running game, what Bucs he thinks are legitimate future team leaders,Â thoughts on the Bucs and a 3-4 defense, and more.